Thursday, May 24, 2012

"Children Are Not Tourist Attractions"

Last year I posted about the problems of orphan tourism, the well-intentioned but potentially harmful volunteerism that takes unscreened strangers into orphanages that crop up to take advantage of the money-making opportunity that these charitable impulses create.  Now AlJazeera reports on orphan tourism in Cambodia:

From the print article:
Between the 1970s and 1990s, Cambodia was ravaged by civil war. Since its return to peace there has been a boom in tourism with over two million visitors every year. Keen to help this war-torn country, increasing numbers of tourists are now also working as volunteers. Most come with the very best of intentions - to work in schools and orphanages, filling a gap left by a lack of development funding.

But, inadvertently, well-intentioned volunteers have helped to create a surge in the number of residential care homes as impoverished parents are tempted into giving up their children in response to promises of a Western-style upbringing and education. Despite a period of prosperity in the country, the number of children in orphanages has more than doubled in the past decade, and over 70 per cent of the estimated 10,000 'orphans' have at least one living parent.

And perhaps most disturbingly, stories have emerged that Cambodian children are being exploited by some of the companies organising the volunteers or running the orphanages.

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Most shockingly, in a country which has made international headlines as a playground for Western sex offenders, Sok seems happy to allow Ruhfus and Haan to take children off for an 'excursion'. He even lines the youngsters up so the 'Western volunteers' can choose which ones they want. A short time later, the pair who have taken the precaution of asking a social worker to accompany them (in the guise of an interpreter), drive away with four of the children.

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The Cambodian government says it will clamp down on failing orphanages, and in 2011 launched a campaign entitled "Children are not Tourist Attractions". Meanwhile UNICEF asserts that 'orphanage tourism' and the related increase in the number of children in residential care is in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1 comment:

Indian Travel said...

Beautifully written.I'm very glad to see your post.Loved it.

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